The last deer and elk have been removed from Santa Rosa Island. That's according to Gordon Long, President of Multiple Use Managers Inc (209-772-7299; www.mumwildlife.com), which operated the hunting lease on the island since 1979. The National Park Service bought the island in 1986 with a lease stipulation that allowed for the hunting of deer and elk for 25 years. All animals were to be removed by December 31, 2011.
Many hunters took trophy mule deer and Roosevelt elk off Santa Rosa Island, one of the few places where quality mule deer hunting remained stable during the decline of mule deer herds in some western states. Between 1995 and 2010, hunters consistently took bucks scoring between 180 and 230 SCI. The Roosevelt elk hunting was also outstanding, with bulls scoring over 300 SCI taken regularly.
The removal of deer and elk from the island was fought for nearly a decade. Former congressman Duncan Hunter of San Diego proposed the island maintain a remnant herd of elk and deer with excess animals to be harvested by wounded veterans. In the end, however, the groups wanting the island returned to its natural state (before Europeans arrived) won.
The animals were removed by White Buffalo, a Connecticut-based company that has worked with the National Park Service on other properties. The last animals were gunned from aircraft. This is a sorry end to what could have been a unique opportunity to maintain our hunting heritage by letting a small herd of elk and deer remain on the island.